The hobbit’s a new species! Again. Or not.

You know it’s a sign of hobbit-fatigue when a new claim about the hobbit pops up, and all you can say is, “…uh-huh.” This new claim swings the pendulum back to the “new species” camp, after a new study compared the cranial morphology of the hobbit with a simulated 3D model of a hominid with the same size. The correlations in the 3D model seem to indicate that the hobbit fits the parameters of a small hominid rather than a human, deformed or otherwise.

Of course, this is not the last we are going to hear about the issue. I doubt detractors are going to accept the hobbit-as-a-separate thesis on the basis that the hobbit’s cranium fits the prediction by a computer model. Incidentally, the Journal of Human Evolution has a whole series of papers published around the same time about the Flores skeletons and archaeological material, including descriptions of the Hobbit skeletons.

‘Hobbit’ Fossils Represent A New Species, Concludes Anthropologist
Science Daily, 17 Dec 2008

Size, shape, and asymmetry in fossil hominins: The status of the LB1 cranium based on 3D morphometric analyses
Journal of Human Evolution, 04 December 2008

Using 3D modeling methods, McNulty and his fellow researchers compared the cranial features of this real-life “hobbit” to those of a simulated fossil human (of similar stature) to determine whether or not such a species was distinct from modern humans.

“[Homo floresiensis] is the most exciting discovery in probably the last 50 years,” said McNulty. “The specimens have skulls that resemble something that died a million years earlier, and other body parts reminiscent of our three-million-year-old human ancestors, yet they lived until very recently — contemporaries with modern humans.”

Comparing the simulation to the original Flores skull discovered in 2003, McNulty and Baab were able to demonstrate conclusively that the original “hobbit” skull fits the expectations for a small fossil hominin species and not a modern human. Their study was published online this month in the Journal of Human Evolution.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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